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Are we ‘Clear on Cancer’?

Ruth Joy Akinsanmi, who previously worked as a project officer in the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (NCRAS), describes what her team learned when they examined the data and evaluated the effectiveness of a national cancer awareness campaign run by Public Health England.

As a project officer, I have seen first-hand the powerful ways in which my colleagues utilise national-level data sources to perform robust evaluations of cancer awareness campaigns to drive us towards our common aim in the NHS Long Term Plan – to improve the diagnosis of cancer at an earlier stage for 75% of patients by 2028. 

Blood in pee campaign image

The national Be Clear on Cancer ‘Blood in Pee’ campaign is one of many awareness campaigns aimed to encourage people to see their doctor if they have symptoms that could be a sign of cancer. These awareness campaigns are vital – however, it is necessary to know whether the campaign messaging is reaching the people that it is targeted at and if it is having the desired impact. 

The fourth national Be Clear on Cancer ‘Blood in Pee’ campaign ran from July to September 2018. It had a core message of:  

If you notice blood in your pee, even if it’s ‘just the once’, tell your doctor. 

In May 2022, we published the evaluation of this campaign in the European Journal of Cancer. Our study aimed to assess the impact on bladder and kidney cancer symptoms including the long-term trends in cancer diagnoses. As part of the evaluation, we analysed and aggregated data at national level from The Health Improvement Network (THIN), National Cancer Registration Data Set, and the NHS Cancer Waiting Times (CWT) database to assess the impact on GP attendances, urgent cancer referrals, CWT first treatments, cancer diagnoses, stage at diagnosis, and 1-year survival. 

Key findings

An increase in the percentage of respondents who could correctly identify that seeing blood in their pee could be a symptom of cancer following the campaign was found using survey data collected by a market and social research agency. 

We examined the THIN data and found that the numbers of GP attendances for blood in pee around the time of the campaign was 17% higher – mainly in males. 

The campaign appears to have increased bladder cancer symptom awareness, urgent suspected cancer referrals and GP attendances.

The numbers of urological cancers (including prostate and rarer urological cancer types) diagnosed from urgent referral were 13% higher. 

Overall, the fourth national Be Clear on Cancer ‘Blood in Pee’ campaign appears to have increased bladder cancer symptom awareness, urgent suspected cancer referrals and GP attendances. 

Our findings from previous cancer awareness campaign evaluations have been instrumental in informing our understanding of the impact of cancer awareness messaging across behaviours like recognising symptoms and visiting the doctor to get diagnosed earlier. Considering the above, the evaluation of cancer campaigns is a powerful tool to increase understanding and inform how future campaigns are run. 

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Last edited: 22 November 2022 10:53 am